Tag Archives: means of escape

Weekly fire tests and evacuation drills for crowded places

As Fire Risk Assessors one of the most common non-compliances with fire safety legislation we find is lack of weekly testing and evacuation drills. This in the average workplace is easy to address and implement swiftly.

However in large buildings that entertain vast numbers of the public (such as hotels or shopping centres) then implementation is not so straight forward. How do you carry out weekly tests and evacuation drills without causing mass panic and economically penalising the business (e.g. if a shopping centre evacuated everybody how many would actually bother to return).

But safety of life must come first and a practicable solution must be sought. Good information and regular, expected regimes of testing would help.

But there are perhaps some tools out there that can help implement systems in public places and crowded spaces, one such example is Alert Innovation’s Shop Alert – Muster Point App which can integrate tests, drills and emergency evacuations.

It is true that regular tests and drills are more challenging in public places but are they not even more important in such an arena?

employees responsible for fire safetyDecember 2010 saw the first prosecution of a fire-protection service provider – Christopher Morris who was responsible for the fire-alarm system at Oldfield Bank Residential Care Home - Altringham, was convicted for fire-safety breaches. Mr Morris was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £6,000 costs. He pleaded guilty to two charges of failing to maintain a fire-alarm system.

The fire at the Care Home resulted in a fatality and as the fallout unfolds an employee of the home has been prosecuted. This is now the first employee to be prosecuted under ‘The Fire Safety Order’ and this one case alone shows the Fire Authorities’ intention to bring all persons involved to justice not just the owner.

Karen Sykes, 41, from Sale, on the 18th of March pleaded guilty to breach of article 23 of the Fire Safety Order - a failure to take care of herself and other relevant persons.  The fire alarm sounded around 6pm but was quickly silenced by Ms Sykes who had not carried out search of the site to investigate the reason for the activation.

A fire was later discovered in a resident’s room and an hour and fifteen minutes after the alarm activation a call was finally made to the fire and emergency services. When fire crews arrived they found the fire-alarm to be muted.

Elderly resident Enid West died following the fire and an inquest into her death is scheduled to be heard by the Stockport Coroner this month.

Assistant county fire officer, Peter O'Reilly, said: "This case clearly highlights and enforces the message that employees have a duty to ensure the safety of the people they are looking after. This type of behaviour simply isn't acceptable and we should not forget that an elderly resident in Sykes’ care died that night. "This is the first time an employee has been prosecuted under this legislation, as opposed to the employer, and I am proud of Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue for bringing this about."

The fallout continues and the message surely is the ‘responsible person’ carries the ultimate can but responsibility is devolved along the way. If you think 'I’m just an employee it’s not my responsibility' - then you’re wrong!

confusing fire exit signs
Safety signs for escape routes and fire exits in the UK can be very confusing. Understanding where signs should be positioned is one thing but before that people have to comprehend the difference between an exit route and a fire exit. Do you know the difference?
An exit route is the route that occupants of a building are most familiar with. Usually this is also the normal everyday route used to enter and leave by.
A fire exit is an alternative route provided only for use in an emergency. It is not the normal route to leave and enter by.
This is the first common mistake where businesses use ‘Fire Exit’ signs on the normal route and even ‘exit’ signs on the fire exit route.
To compound the confusion further we have a choice of formats. It is currently acceptable to use any of the following formats: ISO, British Standard or Euro Symbols.
ISO signs have the graphic of a green man in front of a white door with a directional arrow. British standard have the same but with supporting wording. Euro Symbols however have a white man running towards a white door with a directional arrow. Either format can be used but must remain constant throughout; mixed standards within a building are not acceptable.

Do you know what the following signs mean? (Mouse over the envelope to reveal the answer)

fire exit sign 1 fire exit sign 2 fire exit sign 3

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